IST student strengthens critical skills through Presidential Leadership Academy

Sarah Rothfleisch
October 18, 2019

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Like most first-year students, Tiffany Bass came to Penn State with the goal of advancing skills that would be useful in her future career, while not knowing exactly the path she wanted to take.

Then a mentor encouraged her to apply to the Presidential Leadership Academy because he saw the potential she showed in her classes.

The Presidential Leadership Academy, or PLA, is a program that aims to improve students’ leadership skills and promote their critical thinking surrounding topical societal issues. The program accepts around 30 sophomore students each year that can either apply for the program online or be nominated by a faculty member, which brings the total enrollment each year to 90 select students.

Now a second-year student majoring in cybersecurity analytics and operations in the College of Information Sciences and Technology, Bass has started taking classes within the academy taught by Penn State President Eric Barron. In these classes, Bass and other PLA students learn valuable skills about what it means to be a leader in their professions, communities and personal lives.

When asked what it’s like being taught by the University President, Bass replied she initially wasn’t sure what to expect.

“I was intimidated at first. I didn’t really open up and speak the first few classes,” she recalled. “But he’s very warm and well spoken, and you can tell his goal is to educate us.”

Participation in class is an integral first lesson in the PLA, and this lesson is already coming through for Bass in and out of the classroom.

Bass is a member of the IST student organization Women, International, Racial, Ethnic, Diversity Intercultural Network (WIRED IN), treasurer for the University’s African Student Association and a Homecoming captain. She said the critical skills she’s learning in the academy not only help her in her IST classes, they're helping her be more assertive while improving her effective communication skills in her roles as a student leader.

“The PLA is teaching me to be more confident and more assertive.” - Tiffany Bass, sophomore, cybersecurity analytics and operations

“Most of my classes have a lot of group work in them, and being not only a woman but also a woman of color is intimidating sometimes in that environment,” Bass said. “The PLA is teaching me to be more confident and more assertive.”

Likewise, Bass said that the College of IST has provided her with skills and support networks that are integral to her success within the academy.

“IST has given me a great support system I can use in PLA when I’m in lectures,” said Bass. “The staff supports me with everything I do, and they want to help me get involved.”

The communication skills Bass has learned in group projects for her IST classes have also prepared her well for the topics discussed in the Presidential Leadership Academy. She said that PLA lectures explore challenging decisions that require critical thinking, diplomacy and an understanding of nuance, with topics ranging from Greek life to voting and potentially controversial speakers coming to campus.

According to Bass, these "gray areas" are something she hopes to explore more over the next three years as she continues her college career in IST and extracurricular leadership activities. After all, she said, “the gray areas are what define our lives.”

Last Updated January 22, 2020